Here in Art Deco-rich Miami, we see elements of history everywhere. Sometimes, we even get a taste of it in our best new and classic restaurants. Here, we pay homage to great places to eat in South Florida born out of restored homes. From a mid-century bungalow that is now the Design District’s coziest Mediterranean haven, to the former Versace Mansion in South Beach, which now houses an equally opulent Italian restaurant, these are dining rooms with good bones.
Pioneering Miami restaurateur Mark Soyka’s latest project, Café Roval, is all about ambiance and flavor. The new place, just a stone’s throw away from Soyka restaurant, is in a 1920s coral pump house, complete with enchanting Shangri-La gardens and natural stone pools. Sit under its high, wood-beam ceiling and antique chandeliers — and order the Duck Confit Cavatelli.
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5808 Northeast Fourth Court, Miami; 786-953-7850; caferoval.com.
Gianni’s at the Villa
Originally built by Alden Freeman in 1930, The Villa Casa Casuarina is best known for being the former home of slain fashion designer Gianni Versace. Today, this 10-suite boutique hotel to the stars boasts Gianni’s at The Villa, a Mediterranean and Italian restaurant in what used to be Versace’s formal dining room. While you’re there, have Chef Thomas Stewart’s 8-ounce Filetto di Manzo Rossini with Wagyu beef, pomme confit, grilled asparagus, pan-seared foie gras and Bordelaise jus.
“The filet mignon is cooked to absolute perfection, but the food is just one reason I love it,” general manager Chauncey Copeland said. “I love seeing the reaction of patrons the first time they walk through Villa Casa Casuarina’s doors. The atmosphere, the food, the wine, the service, and Versace’s history here make it a truly memorable experience every time.”
1116 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach; 786-485-2200; vmmiamibeach.com.
In the 1920s, blacksmith Dino Phillips opened a forge on Arthur Godfrey Road, and decades later, Al Malnik bought out the house next door and turned the whole thing into a glitterati-filled steakhouse and wine bar. Fast forward to 2017, and The Forge is still as iconic as ever – but now it has Julia Doyne, the restaurant’s first female executive chef, as queen of the kitchen. Her must-try dish: The 2-Pound Lobster Pot Pie. Doyne simmers a whole Maine lobster in a thick sea of lobster sauce, mustard, lemon, brandy and root vegetables, and bakes it all in a puff pastry.
“The menu at The Forge is just as historic as the place itself,” Doyne said. “We have items on the menu that go back for years, like the kale salad and chopped salad. But we also keep re-inventing ourselves by changing the menu and the atmosphere. That’s why people keep coming back.”
432 41st Street, Miami Beach; 305-538-8533; theforge.com.
27 Restaurant and Bar
From the outside, 27 Restaurant & Bar is an Art Deco landmark dating to 1932. Inside, however, and you’ll find a cozy, slightly updated interior that still gives off a homey vibe with its wood floors, candlelit tables, and warm pops of red, yellow and teal. If you’re able to get a reservation, do as the locals do and order Gabe’s Arepa Platter with house-made arepas, ropa vieja, Venezuelan queso de mano, hogado and spicy ají.
“The arepas are a family recipe from Gabe Orta, co-owner of 27, and then our chef, Jimmy Lebron, added his own interpretation to it,” said 27 co-owner Elad Zvi. “There’s a lot of love and care in this dish. Because it’s meant to be shared between two or more people, it’s fun, and you’re supposed to get involved to eat it. You can make it vegetarian, light or heavy. Every time you eat it, it can be a different journey.”
2727 Indian Creek Drive, Miami Beach; 786-476-7020; freehandhotels.com/27-restaurant.
Mandolin Aegean Bistro
What was once a charming 1940s bungalow is now Mandolin Aegean Bistro: a Mediterranean eatery in the Miami Design District that transports you to the Greek islands. With its blue gates, light-strung patio and edible gardens, it’s one of Miami’s true hidden gems — and so are its new Manti Dumplings. Bursting with flavor, these bite-size pockets of dough are stuffed with beef, lamb fat, onions and parsley and served swimming in a garlic yogurt, burnt butter and spicy Aleppo pepper sauce.
“The idea came from Ahmet Erkaya, Mandolin’s co-owner, who is Turkish. He loved the dumplings so much that he would have Manti nights on Wednesdays when Mandolin first opened,” chef Roel Alcudia said. “The only problem was that he was buying the dumplings instead of making them. We traveled to Turkey together so I could try manti, and after some research, I came up with a recipe of my own. Nobody understood what they were at first, but now, we have two ladies onsite who do nothing but make manti dumplings all day long. They’re flying off the shelves!”
4312 Northeast Second Avenue, Miami; 305-749-9140; mandolinmiami.com.
Worth the Drive: Cafe Boulud
Built in 1926 where bungalows once stood, the Brazilian Court Hotel has long been an enclave for the rich and famous. The hotel’s restaurant, Café Boulud, serves French-American fare under the watchful eye of Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud. For dinner, order Chef Rick Mace’s Heirloom Tomatoes with Burrata, Foie Gras Torchon, and Sunflower-Crusted Loup de Mer. You’ve traveled all the way from Miami; you deserve it.
301 Australian Avenue, Palm Beach; 561-655-6060; cafeboulud.com/palmbeach.
In addition to these beautiful, former homes that now house some of Miami’s top restaurants, Miami Heat star Udonis Haslem can help you make an even bigger list of where to grab a bite in the city, via his personal list of local favorites.